Yet another hearing of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is currently reviewing the gas power station contract awarded to the Electrogas consortium, was mainly taken up by disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi’s prepared statement and bitter bickering between Mizzi and the members of the committee.
Yet Mizzi is set for a far more thorough grilling next week given that the committee agreed to meet for two follow-up sessions on 26 and 27 January. The prepared statement is expected to be concluded on 26 January, after which the committee is set to ask its questions on the corruption surrounding the deal.
Mizzi’s statement largely centred around his claims that “the country would have been brought to its knees” had the administration he formed a part of not signed a security-of-supply agreement through one of Electrogas’s shareholders, SOCAR, the Azerbaijani state-owned company. He also listed the benefits he claims the country has received from the project.
The committee also reported that they are yet to receive documents they had requested from Electrogas for review, with the documents that were actually sent being mostly redacted. The secretary-general of Electrogas was referred to as another potential witness on the committee’s list should the documents not be sent in time.
The former energy minister, who remains an MP in spite of the fact that he was kicked out of Labour’s parliamentary group, also took aim at an article published by The Guardian, which had exposed how SOCAR was essentially acting as an unnecessary middleman between Shell, the actual providers of LNG, and Electrogas.
In his regular fits of self-praise for the purported benefits of the Electrogas project, Mizzi even attempted to justify the corruption allegations surrounding the project by citing a flexibility term, which meant Electrogas could slightly adjust the total, fixed amount according to the demand for energy in that particular year.
“Is this the contract which you keep claiming is corrupt?” Mizzi asked Opposition MPs.
In spite of the fact that Mizzi was exposed as having set up a secret Panama company that was set to receive kickbacks from former Electrogas shareholder and Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, Mizzi repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and all allegations of corruption throughout the meeting.
Mizzi repeatedly told the PAC that the committee “will not find anything on him” and that “there is no proof” to suggest he had done any wrongdoing, defending his decision to remain in parliament in spite of the evidence pointing towards corruption on major deals in which he was involved.
Government MPs Alex Muscat, Jonathan Attard (elected recently following the removal of Ian Castaldi Paris from the committee) and Glenn Bedingfield only chimed in to address the line of questioning rather than the witness, with Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo hardly looking up from his phone throughout the entire two hours of the meeting.
There were several instances throughout the meeting in which the conversation veered away completely from any actual questioning or even further investigation of the Electrogas deal itself, with Mizzi repeatedly deflecting the discussion by referring to alleged scandals within the ranks of the Nationalist Party.
Some of the questions that the Opposition did manage to ask revolved around whether Mizzi had repeatedly attempted to contact current prime minister Robert Abela over the past week, and whether he was being interrogated by the police in relation to Turab Musayev, SOCAR’s former point man on the deal.
Mizzi himself described the questions as “outright lies”, with his lawyers, retired former magistrate Carol Peralta and Jean Paul Sammut, objecting to the line of questioning and claiming that no such questions were asked when Mizzi was summoned by the police.